Can This Yard Be Saved?

June 4, 2009 | By | Comments (14)

“Help Steve! If anyone can answer this, it is YOU!!” [So true. GG]

“On either side of the front steps, I need a small evergreen evergreen shrub. I already have a tea olive on each side and I have been planting annuals (geraniums) in these 2 spots, but now I want something a little more permanent. Directly in front of the steps is a horseshoe area that currently has liriope around the edge and coreopsis in the center. [See below.] I want to redo that area as well, planting a perennial border, I think, with something in the front – flowering? I know you are probably inundated with questions, but is it possible to get some suggestions for both of these areas.”

Many thanks!

JoEllen, Columibia, SC


The Grump’s reply: Do you mind if I share your pictures and request for ideas with my readers? The last time I did this we got a lot of good suggestions.

A couple of things do come to mind though. First, you have a very nice looking house. Resist the temptation to hide it behind a wall of shrubs. (See my story “Don’t Hide the House”) from our recent June issue.

Second, your porch screams out for one or two colorful containers up by the front door. Avoid red flowers that would clash with the brick.

Third, I would remove the liriope from the horseshoe and go with flowers. You could plant a solid mass of one color for big impact or maybe mix some plants, but keep the variety down to no more than three. I would keep whatever you plant there fairly low, so you don’t hide the front steps. Take a look at Serena angelonia, one of my favorite annuals. It blooms all summer, comes in blue-purple, pink, or white (I like the blue-purple), grows about 15-18 inches tall, and doesn’t need much watering.Lantana would also work well there.

You know, another thing you might consider for your horseshoe is some sort of big ornament or pot, like an olive jar or a nice fountain, in line with the front door and then plant something low around it.

What do you think, Grumpians? Any brilliant, creative, and tasteful options for JoEllen to pursue? She’s itching to go to the nursery! Let her hear from you!




  1. Leesa

    Gumpo azaleas — either white or pink. They only bloom once, but what a show! They’re low growing and ever green.

    March 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm
  2. Drew

    Mea Culpa….I “forgot” the tri-color crepe/crape myrtle was in BH&G. I’m just such a fan of yours that I want to give you all the credit. As for the alarm sign…maybe the fountain could have a nude and the sign could be subbed for a fig leaf.

    June 8, 2009 at 10:53 am
  3. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    Hmmm, I don’t recall the toilet fountain in BHG…must have been Coastal Living…

    June 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener

    Drew, that tri-color crepe myrtle was in Better Homes & Gardens and you know it! So was the beer can arbor and the toilet fountain. As for the alarm sign, the whole point of having an alarm system is letting people know you have one. Rent “Dr. Strangelove” (one of the Grump’s all-time favorite movies) sometime. You’ll understand why fluoridation is a pernicious plot to pollute our precious bodily fluids. That’s why I drink only triple-distilled alcohol. I wish to remain pure.

    June 6, 2009 at 7:55 am
  5. chathamcorabbit

    Ahh…yes, that yard is crying out for some funk. A bottle tree is perfect! Go for refined funk- in your case, I’d skip the cobalt, and opt instead for demure beer-bottle-brown:). (One of my bottle trees is a spiral topiary- all brown bottles- it’s strangely formal…) It’s a perfect solution- you get to drink beer and improve your curb appeal all at the same time!!

    June 5, 2009 at 9:41 pm
  6. Drew

    On the right hand end bring the bed out in a curve that parallels the curve of the walk. Plant 1 each of a crimson, pink, and white crape myrtle in a triangle. Plant them close enough that they will merge visually into one tri-colored tree. Bekieve I saw this in an old issue of SL.

    June 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm
  7. Drew

    Get rid of the alarm company sign…its’a distraction.

    June 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm
  8. Drew

    Agree with the idea of a fountain but buy an expensive one to go with the house. Please not one of the 3 tier concrete things. How about adding window boxes on the lower windows. That would add some softness and color. Don’t get too much around the door, you still need room for your guests.

    June 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm
  9. Paula Beckham

    You’ve gotten some great suggestions, but what screams to me are the small foundation shrubs. Your big beautiful house makes them seem so puny. The places you’re worried about…beside the steps and the circular area…are really easy fixes.

    June 5, 2009 at 4:19 pm
  10. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    Think big! Plantings need to be designed to bring home into scale with surroundings; needs big plantings to support it.
    Helen @ Gardening With Confidence
    P.S. Nice southern style home you have there, JoEllen!

    June 5, 2009 at 1:55 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener

    OK, OK, the olive jar wasn’t a great idea. What about a bottle tree? Now that’s Southern!

    June 5, 2009 at 8:51 am
  12. Vikki

    I love your house…very southern colonial. Steve has given you good ideas but I wouldn’t go with the olive jar suggestion…too mediterrian I think. Instead, maybe something old fashioned or very southern (i.e.,pineapple fountain) would look great in your half moon bed. Angelonia for annual color is a favorite of mine as well or you could even use Pentas. It can take the heat and humity of SC. If you do nothing at all the place looks great!

    June 4, 2009 at 8:58 pm
  13. Jean

    JoEllen…beautiful house. The pots Grump mentioned would look good with a topiary underplanted with varigated ivy or blooming annuals.The bed needs color and some height to go along with the tall house.Fountain,urns with water or maybe large pot holding plants. Something cascading.. sprengeri fern interplanted with something bright. Lantana is always a winner in hot sun.Coreopsis great..just needs more color and height. Good luck!

    June 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm
  14. Kelsey

    Great house! Just for fun you may consider adding some color to your front door. I think that red would be an quick fix and I don’t think that the red would clash with the brick (Just my opinion Mr. Grumpy). Then add two red large pots flanking each side of the steps with your choice of evergreen plant in each. Also plant some flowers in the pot as well! Another fun option (probably not wanted but still…) is following the European tradition and painting the shutters and front door a soft teal/turquoise. Then add big pots of that color flanking the steps. I like the idea of flowers in the front horseshoe! Have a great day! You have a great house! Have fun with it!

    June 4, 2009 at 10:44 am

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